The ability to read and speak fluently in more than one language is currently one of the most important skills that someone can have. Language proficiency outside of one’s mother tongue boosts their opportunities for studying and working in fields like business in the global setting, international relations, contemporary education, politics, and a whole lot more. Experts agree that it’s good to start as early as possible through a bilingual education program. The communication skills and literacy that a young child can learn in another language, in a global international school Singapore curriculum or another related program, can take them very far in their professional life.
What are the best languages for a child to learn for their future schooling and career opportunities? To answer that question, here’s a list of five useful languages to pick up and become fluent in.
Arguably the most useful language to learn is English, which is widely considered the lingua franca of business. With about 1.5 billion speakers around the world, English is often the bridging language for global education, politics, law, and cultural affairs as well. Whether English is a child’s first language or a language that they pick up on top of their mother tongue, English fluency will be extremely useful to them in an increasingly globalized world. If your child wants to study or work abroad and must pass English proficiency tests like the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), it’s good to enroll them in an educational program that will strengthen their English skills.
The second most widely spoken language in the world after English is Mandarin Chinese, with 1.3 billion speakers overall. Outside of the three countries where it is an official language—namely China, Taiwan, and Singapore—it is spoken widely in Southeast Asia and also among the Chinese diaspora in North America, Europe, and Australasia. It is also among the six official languages of the United Nations. Mandarin Chinese is a powerful language in many sectors of the global economy. If your child wants to work in disciplines such as science, technology, international economics, and finance, you should encourage them to develop their Mandarin skills in a strong bilingual learning environment.
Another helpful language for your child to learn is Spanish. Spanish is the official language of more than 20 countries and territories around the world, and around 580 million people—or almost 8% of the world’s population—are Spanish speakers. In fact, in the United States alone, Spanish is the first language of 43 million people. Spanish is a great language to learn if your child wants to pursue opportunities in Europe, the United States, or South America. Their Spanish language skills will serve them well in fields like education, cultural diplomacy, and humanitarian action.
French is spoken by about 300 million people. With 29 countries declaring it as one of their official languages, French is also the second most prominent official language behind English. Apart from being a key colloquial and procedural language in the European Union, French is also a cornerstone language in the North American countries of Canada and the US, and in African countries like the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Senegal, and Seychelles. Your child will have a significant advantage in their professional life if they can become fluent in this language, which is associated with culture and higher learning as well as art, history, and romance.
Yet another language that’s highly advantageous to learn is German, which boasts around 130 million speakers. German is an official language in countries like Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein, as well as in its native Germany. Millions of people in countries like the United States also speak German to honor their German roots. Since they’re both Germanic languages, English and German also share many lexical similarities. That also makes it a relatively easy language for a child to learn if one of their base languages is English. For opportunities in fields like business, the academe, and international law, it would be a good idea for your child to take up a language like German.
Ultimately, the best language for your child to learn alongside their mother tongue depends on factors like the geographic location of the place they want to study or to work in in the future, the languages often spoken in the field or industry they want to enter, and so on. That said, there’s no doubt that developing their skills in more than one language will be a worthwhile endeavor.
Be sure to read up on developments in bilingual education in Singapore, to check out foreign language learning opportunities for your child, and to practice their language skills with them so that they can become more confident about navigating their global future.